The value of bringing people together

Katja Lotz
4 min readDec 14, 2022

Maybe this is me kicking in open doors, but some recent events made me reflect on the value we as leaders can help create for our organizations, just by setting the scene and the context in which creativity and inspiration can run free.

I say “just setting the scene” and that is definitely downplaying the hard work that usually lies behind making these things happen. What I mean is that sometimes the most important thing that we as leaders can provide for the people in our organizations is space. Space to talk, space to think and space to act.

Welcome to Tech Summit 2022! Photo by Cilla Borg.

I work as a Senior Engineering Manager at Epidemic Sound. The teams in my part of the organization are responsible for the core user experience on web and mobile; enabling our users to find the right sound for their content with ease and delight. And just a few weeks back, Epidemic Sound organized our first internal Tech Summit, where we gathered the whole tech department to a full day of inspiration, conversation and collaboration. We wanted it to be an interactive day, and by bringing everyone together in our office, we were able to really build the energy and engagement, and enable for more connections across teams and domains.

We had invited Olga Stern, CTO at Tangy Market, to kick the day off with a keynote talk about tech debt, estimations and how replacing deadlines with ”project goals” can help remove team anxiety and getting solid products out there. Then we continued to dig into instrumentation of our product, and how to arrive at business insights from tracking events. An inspirational talk filled with wisdom and an interactive workshop defined this part of the day, that we called EventCon.

Olga Stern giving a keynote on stage in our office. Photo by Cilla Borg.

After lunch we held an Open Space, a participant-driven meeting format based on an agenda that is co-created by the participants at the start of the open space. Anyone who has a topic they want to discuss can bring it up with the group, and it gets added to agenda. The open space technique comes with a few principles; namely that the people who show up are the right people, whenever it starts is the right time, wherever it happens is the right place, whatever happens is the only thing that could, and when it’s over, it’s over. To accommodate this, the Law of Mobility plays a key role; basically if you end up in a session where you are neither learning nor contributing, it’s your responsibility to find another session where you can.

The idea behind the open space is to allow for a wide range of topics, driven solely by the needs expressed by the participants. Our schedule contained three half hour long time slots in six different locations, allowing us to have 18 different topics on the agenda. People talked about everything from technical deep dives on our data platform, mobile app development and Django to organizational and process related questions around our oncall process, roles and responsibilities and our engineering culture to name a few.

Space! Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash

Besides the value of having the discussions we needed to have, and building alignment and relationships across the organization, we also saw concrete actions and results coming out of this day. One example is the backend forum that was born, and judging from the immense activity in the newly started slack channel, this was a change welcomed by many. There’s so much built in value in having a competence focused community for everyone sharing an interest in a topic, no matter their role or previous experience. This backend forum of ours brings together our backend focused developers, platform leads, SREs as well as frontend developers, engineering managers and some others. The discussions are out in the open and people share their point of view on everything backend related.

I’m absolutely convinced there’s so much value in organizing events like these, even though it is sometimes hard to quantify. I believe in having it be a very important part of the culture of the organization, a culture where we want people to discuss and solve problems together, on their own initiative. We don’t want them to hesitate, to wait for an approval before initiating a conversation. And to achieve that, our actions as leaders must match our words. We need to invest the time and money into making these collaborative spaces a reality. We need to set the frames and get everyone involved and excited. And when we manage to do that, magic tends to happen!

What’s your thoughts on this? What successful initiatives have you been part of, and what made them great? I would love to hear from you!

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Katja Lotz

Engineering manager passionate about people, teams and tech. Currently at Epidemic Sound.